This style guide is fully customizable. You can create new sections and edit the content by clicking on it. This template is inspired by the MailChimp content style guide. Feel free to personalize it your own way!
What do you think?
Empower. Help people understand MailChimp by using language that informs them and encourages them to make the most of our products.
Respect. Treat readers with the respect they deserve. Put yourself in their shoes, and don’t patronize them. Remember that they have other things to do. Be considerate and inclusive. Don’t market at people; communicate with them.
Educate. Tell readers what they need to know, not just what we want to say. Give them the exact information they need, along with opportunities to learn more. Remember that you’re the expert, and readers don’t have access to everything you know.
Guide. Think of yourself as a tour guide for our readers. Whether you’re leading them through our marketing website, apps, or educational materials, communicate in a friendly and helpful way.
Speak truth. Understand MailChimp's place in our users’ lives. Avoid dramatic storytelling and grandiose claims. Focus on our real strengths.
In order to achieve those goals, we make sure our content is:
Clear. Understand the topic you’re writing about. Use simple words and sentences.
Useful. Before you start writing, ask yourself: What purpose does this serve? Who is going to read it? What do they need to know?
Friendly. Write like a human. Don’t be afraid to break a few rules if it makes your writing more relatable. All of our content, from splashy homepage copy to system alerts, should be warm and human.
Appropriate. Write in a way that suits the situation. Just like you do in face-to-face conversations, adapt your tone depending on who you’re writing to and what you’re writing about.
What’s the difference between voice and tone? Think of it this way: You have the same voice all the time, but your tone changes. You might use one tone when you're out to dinner with your closest friends, and a different tone when you're in a meeting with your boss.
Your tone also changes depending on the emotional state of the person you’re addressing. You wouldn’t want to use the same tone of voice with someone who’s scared or upset as you would with someone who’s laughing.
The same is true for MailChimp. Our voice doesn’t change much from day to day, but our tone changes all the time.
MailChimp’s voice is human. It’s familiar, friendly, and straightforward. Our priority is explaining our products and helping our users get their work done so they can get on with their lives. We want to educate people without patronizing or confusing them.
One way to think of our voice is to compare what it is to what it isn’t. MailChimp’s voice is:
MailChimp’s tone is usually informal, but it’s always more important to be clear than entertaining. When you’re writing, consider the reader’s state of mind. Are they relieved to be finished with a campaign? Are they confused and seeking our help on Twitter? Are they curious about a post on our blog? Once you have an idea of their emotional state, you can adjust your tone accordingly.
MailChimp has a sense of humor, so feel free to be funny when it’s appropriate and when it comes naturally to you. But don’t go out of your way to make a joke—forced humor can be worse than none at all. If you’re unsure, keep a straight face.
Don’t reference a person’s age unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing. If it is relevant, include the person’s specific age, offset by commas.
Don’t refer to people using age-related descriptors like “young,” “old,” or “elderly.”
Don’t refer to a person’s disability unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing. If you need to mention it, use language that emphasizes the person first: ”she has a disability” rather than “she is disabled.”
When writing about a person with disabilities, don’t use the words “suffer,” “victim,” or “handicapped.” “Handicapped parking” is OK.
Don’t call groups of people “guys.” Don’t call women “girls.”
Avoid gendered terms in favor of neutral alternatives, like “server” instead of “waitress” and “businessperson” instead of “businessman.”
It’s OK to use “they” as a singular pronoun.
Use the following words as modifiers, but never as nouns:
Don’t use these words in reference to LGBT people or communities:
Don’t use “same-sex” marriage, unless the distinction is relevant to what you’re writing. (Avoid “gay marriage.”) Otherwise, it’s just “marriage.”
When writing about a person, use their preferred pronouns. If you’re uncertain, just use their name.
Use “deaf” as an adjective to describe a person with significant hearing loss. You can also use “partially deaf” or “hard of hearing.”
Don’t refer to a person’s medical condition unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing.
If a reference to a person’s medical condition is warranted, use the same rules as writing about people with physical disabilities and emphasize the person first. Don’t call a person with a medical condition a “victim.”
Don’t refer to a person’s mental or cognitive condition unless it’s relevant to what you’re writing. Never assume that someone has a medical, mental, or cognitive condition.
Don’t describe a person as “mentally ill.” If a reference to a person’s mental or cognitive condition is warranted, use the same rules as writing about people with physical disabilities or medical conditions and emphasize the person first.
Use the adjective “blind” to describe a person who is unable to see. Use “low vision” to describe a person with limited vision.
Write for all readers. Some people will read every word you write. Others will just skim. Help everyone read better by grouping related ideas together and using descriptive headers and subheaders.
Focus your message. Create a hierarchy of information. Lead with the main point or the most important content, in sentences, paragraphs, sections, and pages.
Be concise. Use short words and sentences. Avoid unnecessary modifiers.
Be specific. Avoid vague language. Cut the fluff.
Be consistent. Stick to the copy patterns and style points outlined in this guide.
If there’s a chance your reader won’t recognize an abbreviation or acronym, spell it out the first time you mention it. Then use the short version for all other references. If the abbreviation isn’t clearly related to the full version, specify in parentheses.
If the abbreviation or acronym is well known, like API or HTML, use it instead (and don’t worry about spelling it out).
Use active voice. Avoid passive voice.
In active voice, the subject of the sentence does the action. In passive voice, the subject of the sentence has the action done to it.
Words like “was” and “by” may indicate that you’re writing in passive voice. Scan for these words and rework sentences where they appear.
One exception is when you want to specifically emphasize the action over the subject. In some cases, this is fine.
We use a few different forms of capitalization. Title case capitalizes the first letter of every word except articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. Sentence case capitalizes the first letter of the first word.
When writing out an email address or website URL, use all lowercase.
Don't capitalize random words in the middle of sentences. Here are some words that we never capitalize in a sentence. For more, see the Word List.
They’re great! They give your writing an informal, friendly tone. In most cases, use them as you see fit. Avoid them if you're writing content that will be translated for an international audience.
Emoji are a fun way to add humor and visual interest to your writing, but use them infrequently and deliberately.
Spell out a number when it begins a sentence. Otherwise, use the numeral. This includes ordinals, too.
Numbers over three digits get commas:
Write out big numbers in full. Abbreviate them if there are space restraints, as in a tweet or a chart: 1k, 150k.
Spell out the day of the week and abbreviate the month, unless you’re just referring to the month or the month and the year.
Spell out fractions.
Use decimal points when a number can’t be easily written out as a fraction, like 1.375 or 47.2.
Don’t use the % symbol. Spell out the word “percent.”
Use a hyphen (-) to indicate a range or span of numbers.
When writing about US currency, use the dollar sign before the amount. Include a decimal and number of cents if more than 0.
When writing about other currencies, follow the same symbol-amount format:
Use periods without spaces between numbers (no parentheses or dashes). Use a country code if your reader is in another country.
Use the degree symbol and the capital F abbreviation for Fahrenheit.
Use numerals and am or pm without a space. Don’t use minutes for on-the-hour time.
Use a hyphen between times to indicate a time period.
Specify time zones when writing about an event or something else people would need to schedule. Since MailChimp is in Atlanta, we default to ET.
Abbreviate time zones within the continental United States as follows:
When referring to international time zones, spell them out: Nepal Standard Time, Australian Eastern Time. If a time zone does not have a set name, use its Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) offset.
Abbreviate decades when referring to those within the past 100 years.
When referring to decades more than 100 years ago, be more specific:
The apostrophe’s most common use is making a word possessive. If the word already ends in an s and it’s singular, you also add an ‘s. If the word ends in an s and is plural, just add an apostrophe.
Apostrophes can also be used to denote that you’ve dropped some letters from a word, usually for humor or emphasis. This is fine, but do it sparingly.
Use a colon (rather than an ellipses, em dash, or comma) to offset a list.
You can also use a colon to join two related phrases. If a complete sentence follows the colon, capitalize the first word.
When writing a list, use the serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma).
Otherwise, use common sense. If you’re unsure, read the sentence out loud. Where you find yourself taking a breath, use a comma.
Use a hyphen (-) without spaces on either side to link words into single phrase, or to indicate a span or range.
Use an em dash (—) without spaces on either side to offset an aside.
Use a true em dash, not hyphens (- or --).
Ellipses (...) can be used to indicate that you’re trailing off before the end of a thought. Use them sparingly. Don’t use them for emphasis or drama, and don’t use them in titles or headers.
Ellipses, in brackets, can also be used to show that you're omitting words in a quote.
Periods go inside quotation marks. They go outside parentheses when the parenthetical is part of a larger sentence, and inside parentheses when the parenthetical stands alone.
Question marks go inside quotation marks if they’re part of the quote. Like periods, they go outside parentheses when the parenthetical is part of a larger sentence, and inside parentheses when the parenthetical stands alone.
Use exclamation points sparingly, and never more than one at a time. They’re like high-fives: A well-timed one is great, but too many can be annoying.
Exclamation points go inside quotation marks. Like periods and question marks, they go outside parentheses when the parenthetical is part of a larger sentence, and inside parentheses when the parenthetical stands alone.
Never use exclamation points in failure messages or alerts. When in doubt, avoid!
Use quotes to refer to words and letters, titles of short works (like articles and poems), and direct quotations.
Periods and commas go within quotation marks. Question marks within quotes follow logic—if the question mark is part of the quotation, it goes within. If you’re asking a question that ends with a quote, it goes outside the quote.
Use single quotation marks for quotes within quotes.
Go easy on semicolons. They usually support long, complicated sentences that could easily be simplified. Try an em dash (—) instead, or simply start a new sentence.
Don't use ampersands unless one is part of a company or brand name.
When referring generally to a file extension type, use all uppercase without a period. Add a lowercase s to make plural.
When referring to a specific file, the filename should be lowercase:
If your subject’s gender is unknown or irrelevant, use “they,” “them,” and “their” as a singular pronoun. Use “he/him/his” and “she/her/her” pronouns as appropriate. Don’t use “one” as a pronoun.
For more on writing about gender, see Writing about people.
When quoting someone in a blog post or other publication, use the present tense.
The first time you mention a person in writing, refer to them by their first and last names. On all other mentions, refer to them by their first name.
Capitalize the names of teams, departments, and individual job titles.
Don't refer to someone as a “ninja,” “rockstar,” or “wizard” unless they literally are one.
The first time you mention a school, college, or university in a piece of writing, refer to it by its full official name. On all other mentions, use its more common abbreviation.
Spell out all city and state names. Don’t abbreviate city names.
Per AP Style, all cities should be accompanied by their state, with the exception of: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington.
On first mention, write out United States. On subsequent mentions, US is fine. The same rule applies to any other country or federation with a common abbreviation (European Union, EU; United Kingdom, UK).
Capitalize the names of websites and web publications. Don’t italicize.
Avoid spelling out URLs, but when you need to, leave off the http://www.
Our company's legal entity name is "The Rocket Science Group, LLC." Our trade name is "MailChimp." Use "The Rocket Science Group, LLC" only when writing legal documents or contracts. Otherwise, use "MailChimp."
Always capitalize the first “M” and the “C” in MailChimp.
Refer to MailChimp as “we,” not “it.”
Capitalize the proper names of MailChimp products, features, pages, and tools. When referencing non-trademarked products like Pro, Snap, and Automation, include "MailChimp" in the name on first mention.
Honor companies’ own names for themselves and their products. Go by what’s used on their official website.
Refer to a company or product as “it” (not “they”).
Write in plain English. If you need to use a technical term, briefly define it so everyone can understand.
Use italics to indicate the title of a long work (like a book, movie, or album) or to emphasize a word.
Use italics when citing an example of an in-app MailChimp element, or referencing button and navigation labels in step-by-step instructions:
Don’t use underline formatting, and don’t use any combination of italic, bold, caps, and underline.
Left-align text, never center or right-aligned.
Leave one space between sentences, never two.
Use positive language rather than negative language. One way to detect negative language is to look for words like “can’t,” “don’t,” etc.
Alt text is a way to label images, and it's especially important for people who can’t see the images on our website. Alt text should describe the image in a brief sentence or two.
For more on how and why we use alt text, read the Accessibility section.
Buttons should always contain actions. The language should be clear and concise. Capitalize every word, including articles. It’s OK to use an ampersand in button copy.
Standard website buttons include:
Use sentence case for checkboxes.
Use title case for menu names and sentence case for menu items.
Form titles should clearly and quickly explain the purpose of the form.
Use title case for form titles and sentence case for form fields.
Keep forms as short as possible.
Only request information that we need and intend to use. Don’t ask for information that could be considered private or personal, including gender. If you need to ask for gender, provide a field the user can fill in on their own, not a drop-down menu.
Headings and subheadings organize content for readers. Be generous and descriptive.
Headings (H1) give people a taste of what they’re about to read. Use them for page and blog titles.
Subheadings (H2, H3, etc.) break articles into smaller, more specific sections. They give readers avenues into your content and make it more scannable.
Headings and subheadings should be organized in a hierarchy, with heading first, followed by subheadings in order. (An H2 will nestle under H1, an H2 under H3, and on down.)
Include the most relevant keywords in your headings and subheadings, and make sure you cover the main point of the content.
Use title case, unless the heading is a punctuated sentence. If the heading is a punctuated sentence, use sentence case. Use sentence case for subheadings regardless of end punctuation.
Provide a link whenever you’re referring to something on an external website. Use links to point users to relevant content and trusted external resources.
Don’t include preceding articles (a, an, the, our) when you link text. For example:
If a link comes at the end of a sentence or before a comma, don’t link the punctuation mark.
Don’t say things like “Click here!” or “Click for more information” or “Read this.” Write the sentence as you normally would, and link relevant keywords.
Links should look different than regular copy, strong text, or emphasis text. They should have a hover state that communicates they’re interactive, and should have a distinct active and visited state. When setting the hover state of links, be sure to include focus state as well, to help readers using assistive technologies and touch devices.
Use lists to present steps, groups, or sets of information. Give context for the list with a brief introduction. Number lists when the order is important, like when you’re describing steps of a process. Don’t use numbers when the list’s order doesn’t matter.
If one of the list items is a complete sentence, use proper punctuation and capitalization on all of the items. If list items are not complete sentences, don’t use punctuation, but do capitalize the first word of each item.
Use title case for main or global navigation. Use sentence case for subnavigation.
Navigation links should be clear and concise.
Use title case for headings and sentence case for button fields.
Sometimes a long piece of copy lends itself to a list of related links at the end. Don’t go overboard—4 is usually plenty.
Related articles should appear in a logical order, following the step down/step up rule: The first article should be a step down in complexity from the current article. The second one should be a step up in complexity to a more advanced article.
If you can, avoid repeating links from the body text in related articles.
Titles organize pages and guide readers. A title appears at the beginning of a page or section and briefly describes the content that follows.
Titles are (you guessed it) in title case.
Don’t use punctuation in a title unless the title is a question.
We have several MailChimp blogs, including ones written by our design, engineering, and technical content teams. This section will focus on the main MailChimp marketing blog, but the guidelines apply to the other channels, too.
We update the main MailChimp blog a couple times every week. We generally publish:
We publish blog posts that explain the “why” behind the work we do at MailChimp. We want to show people that we're an industry leader with the best products, and we use our blog to tell the stories behind those products.
This isn’t a term paper, so there’s no need to be stuffy. Drop some knowledge while casually engaging your readers with conversational language.
If you're writing about data, put the numbers in context. If you're writing about a MailChimp user, give the reader plenty of information about the company's stage, workflow, results, and values.
Get to the important stuff right away, and don’t bury the kicker. Blog posts should be scannable and easy to digest. Break up your paragraphs into short chunks of three or four sentences, and use subheads. Our users are busy, and we should always keep that in mind.
Feel free to link away from MailChimp if it helps you explain something.
MailChimp is a fun company, and we want our blog to reflect this. Feel free to throw in a joke here and there, or link out to a funny .GIF or YouTube video when appropriate. Just don't overdo it.
In WordPress, add keywords that apply to your article. Look through existing posts for common tags. If you’re not sure if a word should be a tag, it probably shouldn’t.
Include images in your blog posts when it makes sense. If you’re explaining how to use MailChimp, include screenshots to illustrate your point. When posting to WordPress, remove image links, or link the image to the relevant URL. Make sure to use alt text.
Our email newsletters help empower and inform MailChimp users. Here are the most common types of content we send by email:
Every email newsletter is made up of the following elements. Make sure they’re all in place before clicking send:
This is usually the company or team’s name. It identifies the sender in the recipient's inbox.
Keep your subject line descriptive. There's no perfect length, but some email clients display only the first words. Tell—don't sell—what's inside. Subject lines should be in title case. (Note that this is different from a headline, which you may want to include in the campaign itself.)
The top line of your campaign appears beside each subject line in the inbox. Provide the info readers need when they’re deciding if they should open.
Keep your content concise. Write with a clear purpose, and connect each paragraph to your main idea. Add images when they’re helpful.
Make the next step clear. Whether you’re asking people to buy something, read something, share something, or respond to something, offer a clear direction to close your message so readers know what to do next.
All campaigns follow CAN-SPAM rules. Include an unsubscribe link, mailing address, and permission reminder in the footer of each newsletter.
When sending an email newsletter from MailChimp, use the third person “we.” When sending a newsletter as an individual, use the first person.
Most readers will be scanning your emails or viewing them on a small screen. Put the most important information first.
Make the reader's next step obvious, and close each campaign with a call to action. Link to a blog post, event registration, purchase page, or signup page. You can add a button or include a text link in the closing paragraph.
More than 50 percent of emails are read on a mobile device. Limit links to the most important resources to focus your call to action and prevent errant taps on smaller screens.
Some email clients disable images by default. Include an alt tag to describe the information in the image for people who aren’t able to see it.
It’s exciting to send to millions of users at once, but it’s doubtful that every subscriber is interested in every topic. Segment your list to find a particular audience that’s likely to react.
Once you've selected an audience, adjust the language to fit their needs. For example, users who developed custom integrations are more likely to understand and appreciate direct, technical terms.
Use the preview mode to begin, and run an Inbox Inspection to see your newsletter in different email clients. Read your campaign out loud to yourself, then send a test to a coworker for a second look.